It was all a bit nervy in the end, but Liverpool followed up last weekend’s comfortable victory over Champions League challengers Arsenal with a narrow win over away-day strugglers Burnley FC to string together two Premier League victories for the first time since the turn of the year.
The Clarets, whose smash ‘n grab upset at Turf Moor earlier in the season gave some earlier indicators of the problems the Reds would face throughout the campaign, looked on course to do it all again when Ashley Barnes stretched to turn home a raking pass from Matt Lowton until Georginio Wijnaldum kept up his impressive record of scoring at home as the Dutchman side-footed past Tom Heaton to level the score just before the break.
Looking in control and vulnerable at the same time, the hosts took the lead just past the hour mark with Emre Can’s composed, low strike turning out to be the eventual winner, but Sean Dyche’s side refused to go down without a fight, going close to snatching a point on more than one occasion with Liverpool defender Ragnar Klavan preventing Barnes from doubling mere minutes after seeing his side score the go ahead goal. Never ones to shy away from playing direct, Reds ‘keeper Simon Mignolet had to be on his toes as time ticked down, punching away a number of high balls into the box before the Belgian was left at the mercy of Lowton deep into injury time after some ping-pong headers saw the ball drop to the Englishman all alone at the far post only for him to slash a glorious chance high into the stands.
“‘Ugly’, that’s my English so maybe there are better words for it than this. What I want to say is that it was not our best game,” explained Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp. “It’s really difficult, but if you see the results, even if they have not the best away record, the games they’ve lost, most of them are really close,” added the German, knowing full well that Burnley could have snatched a point. “If you don’t score early then you really have to fight,” Because like I’ve said a lot of times, the good games as a team we’ve usually won, but the average games and the bad games you need to be a challenger too, and today we were this challenger.”
While there’s been some criticism leveled at the Reds post match, calling the win “disappointing” and saying that they should have “done better”, at this point, all I can do is shake my head. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take an ugly win over beautiful loss — all day, every day. Accusations of “one dimensional football” and a lack of a “Plan B” aren’t always without merit, but when you come from behind to snatch all three-points, what more could you possibly want?
When you’re approaching the business end of the season, you’re either collecting points, or you aren’t — bottling it and folding up aspirations of a top four finish or battling from the off and staying ahead of the curve. Both Arsenal and Manchester United are only a handful of points behind us and each have games in hand; a loss today would have been disastrous, but we flipped the narrative and kept our momentum flowing ahead of trip to the Etihad Stadium next weekend. Beating the Clarets might not be something to celebrate, but it’s certainly not something to tut about either.